The United States of Cocktails – A Review

by artfuldiner on March 31, 2023

in Uncategorized

United States of Cocktails - CoverFROM THE BOOKSHELF: Brian Bartels, The United States of Cocktails:

Recipes, Tales, and Traditions from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia), 2020

The Foreword, written by Brad Thomas Parsons (author of Last Call: Bartenders on Their Final Drink and the Wisdom and Rituals of Closing Time, which I shall be reviewing at a future date), pretty much says it all: “Brian (Bartels) has never met a cocktail den, tavern, corner tap or dive bar that wasn’t worthy of exploration, and his always-curious egalitarian approach to drinking, along with the stories shared every day and night behind the bar, makes him the perfect candidate to tell this story. Brian is as American as a Bruce Springsteen song, but on his version of the album cover of Born in the U.S.A. instead of a dusty red ball cap you’ll find a well-worn Moleskine notebook tucked into the back left pocket of his Levi’s 501 jeans.”

United States of Cocktails - Notebook… And he has filled that notebook (and these pages) with an intriguing potpourri of memories, recipes, folklore, and a few tall tales from his incredible journey into the cocktails, spirits, and bar history celebrated in every state in America, paying a call at over seven hundred different bars, taverns, etc., along the way. As Ernest Hemingway once remarked, “If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.”

In the introduction, readers are given an intriguing Abbreviated History of an American Invention: The Cocktail. This mix of liquor, sugar, bitters and, usually, ice was born in the early nineteenth century and made its first appearance in the 1803 edition of The Farmer’s Cabinet of Amherst, New Hampshire, which proclaimed: “Drank a glass of cocktail – excellent for the head.” The origin of the word itself, however, is up for grabs, as divergent theories abound.

United States of Cocktails - Mount RushmoreThe main portion of the book is divided by regions – Northeast, South, Midwest, West – with individual states listed accordingly. For each state, the author lists its notable cocktail bars, state spirit, bucket list bar (absolutely must be visited if you are traveling near a certain town or area), oldest bar, state beverage, and cocktail recipe(s) indigenous to that particular state. Take Pennsylvania, for instance… Notable Cocktail Bar: Charlie Was a Sinner, Philadelphia; State Spirit: Jannamico Super Punch; Bucket List Bar: Kelly’s Bar & Lounge, Pittsburgh; Oldest Bar: McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Philadelphia, 1860; State Beverage: Frank’s Black Cherry Wishniak; Cocktail Recipe: Clover Club, Julie Reiner, created in the late 1800s at the Clover Club inside the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.   

The United States of Cocktails also contains a recipe list by region and by spirit, as well as an excellent bibliography. It is available from Amazon and other sources online.


Be Safe & Stay Well


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: